Google chief executive Eric Schmidt told worried US newspaper owners on Tuesday they need to work with the Web giant as they struggle to find a new business model for the ailing industry.
Speaking to a meeting of the Newspaper Association of America in San Diego, California, Schmidt praised the role the press plays in a democratic society and stressed that newspapers should see Google as a partner not a rival.
Schmidt said Google, which has been criticised by some US newspaper owners for linking to their websites without sharing advertising revenue, focuses on the user experience and newspapers need to do the same.
“If I were involved in the digital part of a newspaper I would first and foremost try to understand what my reader wants,” the Google CEO said.
“These are ultimately consumer businesses and if you piss off enough of them you will not have any more,” he said. “If you make them happy you will grow them quickly. We try really hard to think that way.”
Schmidt said newspapers need to improve their websites. “I think the sites are slow. They literally are not fast,” he said. “They're actually slower than reading the paper.”
Schmidt addressed the newspaper executives a day after the US news agency the Associated Press announced plans to take legal action against websites that publish stories from the AP or its member newspapers without permission.
“We can no longer stand by and watch others walk off with our work under misguided legal theories,” said Dean Singleton, the chairman of the AP, a cooperative owned by more than 1,400 US newspapers. Agence France-Presse also has a licensing deal with Google.
Schmidt expressed optimism about the future of the media despite the closure of two major newspapers recently and the bankruptcy of others, but made it clear he does not expect most readers today to pay for news online.“You'll be forced, whether you like it or not, to have a significant advertising component as well as a micropayment and a traditional payment system,” he said.